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Lionel Richie said he nearly had a “nervous breakdown” when he thought he was losing his voice

Arnold Turner/Getty Images for HELLO by Lionel Richi

Lionel Richie has opened up about a scary moment in his life when he thought he had lost his singing voice.

Speaking to People, the “Hello” hitmaker recalled when he was struck by a mysterious throat illness during the height of his career and how he had to undergo multiple surgeries to treat it.  “You don’t want anybody fooling around down there. This is your identity,” he said of having doctors operate on his throat four separate times. “I never really thought that it would end.”

Lionel battled his throat condition amid his divorce from ex-wife Brenda Harvey and while grappling with the loss of his father, Lionel Brockman Richie Sr., who passed in 1990.  Lionel said during that time, he came “About as close as you ever would’ve come to a nervous breakdown.”

The 72-year-old Grammy winner recalled a chance meeting with a fan that put it all in perspective, saying an elderly Black man walked up to him while he was in Jamaica and told him, “You must survive because you are our beacon of hope…If you make it, we know we can make it. If you accomplish, we know we can accomplish.”  Lionel said he “was crying” as the man told him that.

Richie has since discovered it was diet-induced acid reflux that was causing his issues, and has made a full recovery.

Lionel shared the lesson his father taught him about maintaining a positive outlook on life, which is, “Aptitude plus attitude determines altitude.”

“If you happen to have both, sky’s the limit, but if you’re only blessed with one, have the right attitude because people will love to have you around,” Lionel shared.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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